Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Book Review: SECOND CHANCE by L.B. Dunbar


Another romance over 40 from L.B. Dunbar
Can one sexy silver fox face the woman he once left behind but never let go?




SECOND CHANCE
by
L.B. Dunbar

Series: #sexysilverfoxes
Genre: Contemporary Romance


About the Book

Her.
A widow at forty-four, her husband left her a letter.
Contact Denton.
Once upon a time, the three of them had been best friends.
Mati Rath isn’t sure she should look back.
Her heart isn’t ready, or so she thinks.

Him.
A pleading phone call forces him to make a decision.
I’ll be there.
Yet, he hasn’t been home in twenty-seven years.
Denton Chance isn’t sure he should return.
The past still haunts his heart.
A desire that never left them, along with circumstances beyond their control, brings the past to the present.
Can one sexy silver fox face the woman he once left behind but never let go?


Sometimes love deserves a second chance.




Purchase Links





*****
My Thoughts

L.B. Dunbar has definitely found a writing groove with her over-40 romances. I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve read and SECOND CHANCE is no exception.

I’ll admit that I was a tad sceptical heading into the book; I am wary of widowed characters who jump into romantic relationships soon after their spouses die. I do make judgements and it takes a skilled author to win me over, and Dunbar certainly did here.

This is a story about a second chance for Mati Harrington and Denton Chance, but it’s also a love triangle between Denton, Mati and Chris, her deceased husband. I thoroughly enjoyed the way Dunbar switched between the past and present to slowly reveal the layers of this intricate relationship between them all. They were all so young, dealing with intense feelings that resulted in actions that are still felt nearly 30 years after they happened.

Dunbar excels in giving her characters a life. These are not people who have let time pass them by. They have lived; they have had good times and they have regrets but they recognise when it’s time to leave the past behind and reach for their own happiness, whatever form this happens to take. They are also funny, a bit silly and a lot human. They are entirely relatable.

SECOND CHANCE is certainly a romance but for me it also sits firmly in the family saga category. The small town setting gives us the chance to meet other family members and friends that impact greatly on the lives of Denton and Mati. The story is about history and ancestral roots; it’s about the lies told and the secrets uncovered.


The writing was engaging and kept me entertained from the start. I highly recommend SECOND CHANCE. 


Contact the Author


Books. Kissing included.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

New Release (+ Excerpt): PROTAGONIZED by Shannon Myers




Title: Protagonized
Author: Shannon Myers
Genre: Literary Fiction/Romantic Comedy
Release Date: January 24, 2019



Blurb

Describe Jake Hopkins in two words? 

Boozing womanizer. 

So, maybe he solved cases with a precision not seen since Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. It didn't matter. The guy was a grade A prick. 

And killing him was the best decision I ever made—until it wasn't.

It was supposed to be a good move for me—a way of showing that I wasn't one to back down.
I never imagined it would cause such a visceral reaction...among my readers. 

I didn't get it. He was barely tolerable most of the time and his death opened the door for a new detective—maybe one who had her act together.

I never would've guessed that he'd show up on my doorstep, begging for a second chance, or that he'd look even better than I ever imagined. Characters die and everyone moves on—that's the way it works. Sometimes it's even necessary for the story to progress.

When the hate mail gives way to something more sinister, Jake insists that he's just the man to handle the case. He vows to keep me safe in exchange for his life. 

The problem isn't resurrecting him. 

No, my problem is much worse.

How do I stop myself from falling in love with a fictional character?





Purchase Links

99c for a limited time!

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU





Excerpt

“Okay, now when we get there, act normal. Order whatever you usually get. Sit where you normally do. That kind of thing. Don’t get too focused on looking for a suspect. That’s my job.” Jake hit his turn signal and switched lanes. I was riding shotgun in the shiny black Raptor I’d written for him and, any moment now, I was going to wake up back in bed, having dreamt this entire thing. I rubbed my damp palms against my jeans and focused on my breathing.
After getting dressed in record time, Jake had wanted to know my schedule for a typical day. When I mentioned that I wrote at a local coffee shop a couple of times a week, his eyes lit up. I was relieved that I’d left out the fact that I worked at a salon in the afternoons and evenings because there was not a chance in hell of me letting him tag along there.
We pulled into the parking lot and Jake turned to me. He studied me for a second, giving a slight head shake at my you’ve got to be kitten me right meow, t-shirt. “This is the place?” He looked through the windshield at the Cold Brews Co. sign and then back at me. “It looks like a bar.”
“No, their specialty is cold brew coffees—look, is this a good idea?”
Translation: Is this safe?
He nodded. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.” 
The thought that someone, besides Bootsy and Aaris, wanted to keep me safe did weird things to my heart, even if it was coming from Jake. I fought the urge to pump my fist in the air while laughing like a lunatic.
“After all, you’re my meal ticket. If you get dead, I can’t get back home,” he finished with a pouty smirk.
Oh good, the limbic rage was back. I’d been worried it was gone forever once the handcuffs were off.
“Why do you do that with your mouth?" I snapped, as I unbuckled and climbed down to the pavement.
“Do what? He pursed his lips again.
“That! You’re doing it again.”
At his blank expression, I forced my own lips into a duck pose as he held the coffee shop door open for me. “Like this.”
“Why are you doing that to your face? Stop. People are staring.” He hissed, glancing around.
"You look like that all the time.”
“Good Morning, Hayden,” my favorite barista, Damien, called over the espresso machine as the door jingled above our heads, announcing our arrival. “The usual?”
I immediately softened my expression, trying to channel the joy and tranquility that tried to flee when Jake entered a room. “Yeah, that’ll be perfect. Thanks, Damien. How’d Paul do on his test?”
He poured steamed milk into a paper cup for a to-go order with a dramatic eye roll. “Nailed it. Like he does everything else. I just have to talk him off the ledge every time though. How’d I end up the motivator in this relationship? I swear.”
“Because you’re a positive person and deserving of all the good things life has to offer,” I reminded him as I selected a bottled water from the refrigerated case
“I just come here a couple of times a week, but know everyone’s life story,” Jake quietly taunted at my back, his body inches from mine. A shudder worked its way down to my toes as the scent of campfire and pine flooded my nostrils. 
Were there notes of citrus layered in there? No, I was definitely detecting hints of clean laundry that had been dried on a clothesline mixed with something.
Gah, what was it?
I wanted to lean back and rest my head against his chest while looking up at him adoringly. Just like I’d witnessed the younger couples that frequented this place do on more than one occasion. But this time, it’d be me experiencing something other than abject disappointment.
Me and my very own tree.
And I’d climb that redwood every day.
Just doing my part to save the earth, kids.
I was struck with the image of massive hands on my hips, pinning me in place. I’d just bet that his fingers would curl in possessively, marking me as his to anyone who dared to look. The cold air blasted around bottles of juice and water, yet inside, I was sweltering.
His proximity was messing with my brain waves. I straightened with a shaky exhale and carried my water over to the register, doing my best to ignore my flushed cheeks and the giant I came in with.
Damien added a heart to the foam and handed me my caffè mocha before noticing Jake. “Hey, you brought a friend,” he exclaimed in his typical sing-song.
I shook my head. “We just came in at the same time. I don’t know this man.”
I wasn’t just imagining all the ways I’d like him to defile me in front of the poor beverage case, either, in case you were wondering.
“Are you sure you don’t want to get to know him?” He stage-whispered, raising his eyebrows up and down suggestively as he snagged me a cinnamon roll from the case.
“Oh, no. I’ve got quite enough excitement in my life.”
Damien gave Jake another once over. “If you say so. I personally think when excitement comes packaged like that, you thank the universe and don’t ask questions. But, that’s just me. How’s Bootsy doing? Is she still loving her holistic food?”
“Yes. It has made such a difference with her…” 
Shit, what was it supposed to do? 
“Poops?” I offered hesitantly just as Damien suggested, “Her coat?”
He frowned. “It shouldn’t have changed her bowel habits. My girls didn’t seem to be any different. Maybe check with the company—”
I waved my hand. “Oh, no I meant that she was much more ‘regular,’ if you know what I mean. Poor thing, uh, couldn’t get the job done before. This food has really taken in her interconnectedness with her, um, environment. She’s living her best holistic life now.”
I made the mistake of looking over at Jake. He stood at the counter with wide eyes and a what the fuck are you talking about expression on his face.
• Confession: I never actually bought the cat food that Damien recommended. I went to the pet store with every intention of purchasing the all-natural, chock full of vitamins and omegas, and completely grain-free canned cat food until I saw the price. At six bucks a tin, I decided that I would just let Bootsy continue her unwholesome lifestyle. Unfortunately, Damien asked about it the very next time I was in, and instead of coming clean, I told a little white lie. He’d just made it seem like letting your fur baby eat anything else was bad pet parenting. And, it wasn’t like he would ever know. He wasn’t going to show up to my apartment, demanding to see the contents of Bootsy’s litter box.
Damien nodded. “Well, let me know if you need anything else for her. Oh, have you noticed how much more connected she is spiritually to you now? I swear, I recommend it to everyone.”
I avoided Jake’s penetrating stare as I paid before patting the front pocket of my backpack. “Definitely. So… Zen. Well, I better get to it.”
“Same. I’ll come by and check on you in a bit.”
I stuck the bottle of water in the side pocket of my bag, juggling the cinnamon roll and mocha as I made my way to the wooden table near the back. It was the only table with an outlet that was out of direct sunlight. 
Next to it was an old wooden hutch that held cream and sugar. I found that it was the best seat in the house for eavesdropping, which was a win-win for an author in need of a story. 
I loved everything about coming here. From the exposed brick walls and ceiling beams to the vintage signs and old produce case turned bookshelf, it was the perfect place to let my creativity flow.
Jake solved his first case here. Incidentally, he also fell off a balcony at this very table. It held a special place in my heart.
“I’m going to sit on the other side of the room,” Jake said in a low voice. Instinctively, I turned to where his voice came from just in time to see him add sugar to his coffee. 
“No, don’t turn around. You and I aren’t having a conversation.”
He was going to add precisely two and a half raw sugars, keeping the other half in his pocket for his next caffeine fix. When I heard the distinct sound of paper being folded, a victorious smirk spread across my face. God, I loved being right.
“Why are you smiling?” He kept his back to me, so it appeared as if he was having a conversation with the various creamers.
“I’m not.” My grin widened.
He sighed, “You are. I can see your reflection in the carafe. What about this investigation is funny to you? See, someone shoots up my door, I’m not laughing. Then again, I’m not trying to have a spiritual intervention with my cat.”
My smile faded, and I turned all of my attention into retrieving my laptop from the backpack at my feet. “You’re just so—” What was he? “Predictable. Everything you do is exactly the way I wrote it. Sometimes, I’m even convinced that I know what you’re going to do next before you do.”
I saw him reach for a stirrer in the reflection of my laptop screen. Judging by how vigorously he was using it, I’d gotten under his skin.
“You’re probably right,” he finally conceded. “You are, after all, operating on an entirely different plane than the rest of the world. I’ll be across the room; try to act normal.”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “And how am I supposed to do that when you’re watching me from across the room?”
“Just write the book, Hayden. Don’t worry about who’s coming or going. Let me handle that. Tap your finger twice against the table if you understand.”
I did, feeling like a secret agent in a summer blockbuster.
With villains at every turn, there was only one woman capable of saving the world. All she needed was her trusty laptop and some caffeine—
“Hayden, I just needed you to tap twice. You can stop now.” He snagged a newspaper off an empty table and tucked it under his arm before moving toward a table near the front. From there, he’d be able to see everyone coming and going.
I took a bite of my cinnamon roll and cracked my knuckles before pulling up my manuscript. 
Alright, Laura. Let’s solve a mystery…
Laura stood, shoulder to shoulder, with some of the city’s most upstanding citizens. It was unfathomable to think that any one of them could’ve been responsible for the body lying in the street, but her instincts told her that was exactly the case.
My mind went blank, and I began distractedly counting each pulse of the cursor. I was simply rehashing what I’d already covered. In all honesty, I had no idea what to do with Laura. Jake had pointed out her implied elderliness more than once and now I couldn’t help but picture her as some blue-haired granny with a cane.
How was she supposed to solve a murder?
Plus, by mentioning her husband early on, I’d destroyed any chance of adding a love interest for friction. It was shit.
I tried again.
Laura stepped away from the crowd and searched for… a way out of this story. She’d gotten roped into playing the main character after the author killed off the other one. Laura didn’t want to be next.
Laura was fucking everything up.
Jake caught my eye and frowned from over the newspaper. Obviously, he was enjoying the drivel I was spewing out about as much as I was.
I took a long drink of coffee, but the caffeine only confirmed what I already knew. I needed a new main character. Someone who was younger. Female. Maybe she’d been exposed to law enforcement by a former boyfriend or family member. Just enough that she’d know her way around a crime scene—oh my god.
My legs caught the edge of the table as I quickly stood up, rattling the plate containing my half eaten cinnamon roll. I just needed to act discreet. 
Jake had the paper up again, reading, so I couldn’t signal for Plan A, which was for him to meet me in the bathroom. I was going to have to go with Plan B. I walked over behind his table and looked out the large glass garage door that they opened during the summer months.
Realizing I still hadn’t grabbed his attention, I stretched my arms overhead and yawned loudly.
“Hayden, what the hell are you doing?” He asked, without lowering the paper.
“I have a question,” I said, much louder than anticipated. I tried again, this time lowering my voice. “I have a question. About the book.”
When he remained quiet, I continued. “I think you’re right about Laura—oh man, what a beautiful day it is! Sorry, I thought that person was coming over here. We gotta stay discreet, right? So, I’m starting to think that maybe she’s not the right character. I was wondering if maybe—”
Jake dropped the newspaper and pushed his chair back away from the table, the legs scraping loudly against the concrete floor.
Good. We were going to discuss this like real people and not spies. Although I really felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.
“Our cover’s completely blown. I’ll be out in the truck.” I followed his gaze over to the counter where Damien was waving slyly at me.
I returned it and turned back in time to see Jake disappear through the front door.
Shit.
“Decided you were in the mood for some excitement, after all?” Damien carried a damp cloth in his hand, but he wasn’t here to wipe down the table. He was here for the dirt.
“Um, well, I tried. Got shot down. Better luck next time, I guess.” I kept sneaking furtive glances toward the parking lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of my surly detective.
Well, not mine, mine.
“He’s kind of a pretty boy, isn’t he?” Damien asked.
I nodded. “Yep. It wouldn’t have worked out. Bootsy’s the most high maintenance thing in my life. I don’t have room for another. Would you mind boxing up my cinnamon roll and getting me a to-go cup? I’m just not feeling my muse this morning.” 
“Sure thing.”
It was supposed to be part of the cover, but I realized that there was no scenario where Jake suddenly developed feelings for me. He’d said just as much before we came in. 
Damien brought me my food items as I packed up the laptop, consoling me with promises of what he’d do to Jake’s drink if he ever bothered showing up again. By the time I made it outside, the air had turned cooler and clouds darkened the sky. I walked around to the back parking lot.
“I think they saw us come in together,” Jake said, by way of greeting, as I struggled to climb up into the truck with full hands
“Oh, hey. Hello. I’m doing great, thanks for asking, Jake.” 
He leaned across the seat and took both the coffee and the cinnamon roll from my hands before helping me up. “Hi, Hayden. This will come as a bit of a shock to you, but you stick out like a sore thumb.”
I snapped the seat belt into the buckle. “I do not! I was inconspicuous.”
He put the truck in reverse just as the first drops of rain began to fall on the windshield. “You were about as inconspicuous as a beer vendor at an AA meeting. And what the fuck was that cat food conversation?”
“You told me to be myself!” I bit out.
“Yeah,” he agreed before merging into traffic. “That was a mistake.”
“You coming back to life was a mistake,” I muttered to the passenger side window.
He prodded. “C’mon, Hayden. Surely you know that this operation failed miserably?”
Why couldn’t he have been hideous? At least then the exterior would’ve matched the interior.
“Any good stalker worth their salt is gonna stake out the parking lot. So, probably. Maybe. Alright, fine. Yes. There’s a very good chance that if someone was watching, they probably saw us together. It’s mostly my fault.”
“Mostly?” Jake asked, with a quirked brow.
“Yeah, I wasn’t thinking this morning and I put on my oil spray.”
He stopped at a red light and turned toward me. “You put on oil spray.” His speech was slow and measured like I’d suddenly stopped speaking English. “What does that mean exactly?”
“Oh, I’m an empath, so if I don’t use my spray every morning, I am drained by lunch. You know, it gets way too people-y out there.”
Instead of agreeing, Jake signaled and pulled into a gas station. “Hayden, I didn’t understand two words of what you just said. What the fuck is an empath and how does oil spray factor into this investigation?”
Seriously? What planet was he living on that he didn’t know about oils and empaths?
“My spray repels negative energy, so it’s a protective measure. It blocks any energy attacks and keeps me running on a full tank. It’s vital when I’m in writing mode.”
His eyebrows lifted. “So, let me get this straight; the spray kept the stalker away?”
“Not exactly,” I admitted with a sigh. “I have my crystals too. I swear, I didn’t even think about it being a problem. It’s just a habit to keep them in my purse. I mean, it’s not like I typically go out in search of negativity.”
He shook his head. “So, the crystals and sprays keep you safe from the bad people?”
Finally.
“Yes,” I nodded happily. “And, with the work that you do, you could really benefit from it. I’d start small. Maybe keep some black tourmaline in your truck and house. Oh, amethyst would be a good one for you; they work as both a protector and a stress reliever. It’d definitely make things more bearable for you at work. Hematite’s another—”
“Sweetheart, there’s not enough oils and crystals in the world to make some people bearable. Do you catch what I’m saying?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but only managed a growl. The back of my eyelids burned and I knew that if I tried to talk, it’d just come out as a sob. That, in turn, would just freak Jake out completely.
I hated that about myself. Other people got mad and spoke their minds. Me? I cried and babbled incoherently. 
Aaris once informed me that I got ‘wet angry.’ According to her, the majority of my emotions, including anger, were expressed through tears. Aaris? She was in a separate category known as ‘dry angry.’ She expressed her anger like anger—it both amazed and scared the hell out of me.
We drove in silence for about ten minutes before he asked, “What are you thinking?”
I turned away from watching the raindrops race each other across the window to answer. “I was just thinking that thirty stories wasn’t high enough.”






Author Bio


Shannon is a born and raised Texan. She grew up inventing clever stories, usually to get herself out of trouble. Her mother was not amused. In junior high, she began writing fractured fairy tales from the villain's point of view and that was the moment she knew that she was going to use her powers for evil instead of good.

In 2003, she moved to Denver and met the love of her life. After some relentless stalking and a few well-timed sarcastic remarks, the man eventually gave in to her charms and wifed her so hard. They welcomed a son in 2007 that they named after their favorite Marvel superhero, Spiderman. 

Sick of seeing beautiful mountains through their window every day, the three escaped back to the desolate landscape of the west Texas desert in 2009. She welcomed her second son not long after and soon realized that being surrounded by three men was nothing at all like she'd imagined in her fantasies.

After an unplanned surgery in 2014 and a long pity party, she decided to pen a novel about the worst thing that could happen to a person in order to cheer herself up. She's twisted like that. Thus, From This Day Forward was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

Not only does Shannon enjoy stalking people, she also has a fondness for being stalked. Visit her at www.shannonshaemyers.com to keep up with her latest schemes and shenanigans.


Author Links




Tuesday, 22 January 2019

RE-RELEASE (+ Excerpt & Author Giveaway): UNBREAKABLE by Emma Scott



UNBREAKABLE

by 
Emma Scott


The bank robbery changes everything…



Re-release Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Purchase Links:

Amazon Universal: mybook.to/EScottUnbreakable



Unbreakable 
Blurb:

**Unbreakable has been edited and re-released with extended content and a new cover.

Alex Gardener has her life planned out, down to the smallest detail. She has a skyrocketing career as a litigation attorney, a close group of socialite friends, and is engaged to one of the most successful businessmen in Beverly Hills. Everything is just as she wants it: comfortable, predictable, secure…if lacking passion. Fire.

Cory Bishop is a struggling working man, trying to make ends meet while fighting to keep custody his young daughter. He knows that working hard is the only way to achieve his goals, but lately it seems everything he wants hangs just out of reach.

The bank robbery changes everything.

Alex and Cory spend three harrowing days as hostages locked in a bank with fifty frightened people and six criminals who grow more desperate--and dangerous--by the hour. Alex and Cory find comfort and safety with each other and reveal their deepest hopes and fears and secrets, unknowingly building a bond forged out of desperation and fear, one that they can’t break, even once outside the bank’s walls.

Their lives are turned upside down, irrevocably altered, and they seek to move on and put the robbery--and each other--behind them.

But some bonds, once forged, cannot be broken.



Unbreakable Excerpt:

Alex

I marched into the towering edifice of United One Bank, my shoes tapping over the marble floor. I managed a brief smile for the portly security guard but it quickly fell away when I saw that half of Los Angeles had decided to do their banking at lunchtime too.
“Damn.”
         I took my place in line behind a tall blond man in jeans and a rugged brown jacket. The whiff of perfume filled my nose as a beautiful, immaculately dressed young woman of Indian heritage stepped in line behind me.
         I settled in to wait, wondering if I should call my assistant, to make sure nothing was going haywire with any of my cases. But Abed knew me well: waiting until I came into the office to give me news was a bad idea. I checked my cell phone for messages and saw none. No word from my team, and nothing from the court’s clerk. No verdict yet.
I eased a sigh and then tightened up again when I realized I hadn’t filled out any forms—or whatever the hell it was I needed—to get the cashier’s check out of my firm’s expense account.
Isn’t all banking electronic by now? I wondered, irritation mounting.
         The line behind me had grown and the line in front wasn’t moving. I made a questioning motion to the young woman behind me to save my place. She nodded and waved a gold-ringed hand absently without interrupting her cell phone conversation. I hurried to a wooden bank of slips, grabbed one, and stepped back in line with a brief smile of thanks.
But I had nothing to write on. The man in front of me had a strong back.
Maybe he’d let me make a desk out of him.
 I smirked and admired the man’s physique from behind. Broad shoulders, narrow waist. His jeans fit him rather perfectly.
Nice ass, I thought and tingles of a very real, likely very bright blush colored my neck.
Oh, grow up, I laughed at myself.
I rummaged in my bag and pulled out a small stack of my engagement party invitations; the thick stationary would make a sufficient backing. I fished out a pen and started to fill out the little withdrawal form when woman behind me issued a sudden laugh and bumped my elbow. The little stack of envelopes flew out of my hand to scatter around my feet and that of the blond man in front of me.
         “Sorry, so sorry,” the woman muttered to me.
         “Honestly,” I muttered, and knelt to gather the envelopes. The blond man in front of me turned and knelt to help. “Thanks.”
         “No problem.”
         I looked up and might have gasped. I prayed I hadn’t but someone issued a sharp intake of breath, and my neck went beet-red again. I could feel the fire of it burning my pale skin.
         Hello, gorgeous.
The face bent close to mine was ruggedly handsome with a strong jaw, chiseled chin, broad mouth with full lips, and—most surprisingly for a man with lighter hair—rich brown eyes, which were sharply intelligent and soft at the same time. I smelled his crisp scent—aftershave and something like freshly chopped wood—and it seemed that scent settled into my chest and remained there, warm and clean.
Wow, you’re being extra ridiculous right now.  
         “Have I got something stuck in my teeth?” the young man asked, amused. His voice was deep, gravelly…
Sexy.
         I gave myself a mental shake and gathered the rest of the spilled envelopes. “No, I just…I thought I recognized you from somewhere. Are you an actor?”
         He made a face. “Not remotely.”
         “Oh. Well, you never can tell around here. And you look like you could be one. An actor.”
Or a model. Jesus, those eyes…
         He shrugged and smiled crookedly. “I think I look like me.”
         I smiled back. Good answer. I had never seen a man as good-looking—on screen or in real life—as this man in front of me. If I were a romantic sort—which I wasn’t—the word breathtaking would not be overstating it.
We both rose from the floor. His eyes were warm but he seemed to stiffen slightly as he took in my expensive suit, my jewelry, my bag.
He ran a hand through his unruly blond hair and handed me the envelopes he’d gathered. “Yeah, so. Here you go.”
         “Thanks,” I said.
         “Sure thing.”
         He turned his back to me and a small twinge of disappointment nipped at me.
Focus, Gardener, I admonished. The judge could call us back at any moment.
         The blond man in front of me sighed impatiently and checked his watch—a nice looking silver timepiece with a beat-up leather band. His head turned in profile to me.
          “Is it just me or has this line come to a complete standstill?”
         “It’s not just you,” I said, steadfastly ignoring the little tingle that sparked in my belly at the sound of his low, bedroom voice. I cleared my throat. “Looks like they’re short a teller or two.”
“Or ten. Fuck me,” he muttered, then eyed me apologetically. “Sorry for the language, but there isn’t a worse day for this kind of—”     
“Bullshit?” I supplied with a wry grin.
         He laughed, and some of the tension in his face relaxed. I tried my hardest not to stare. If he was breathtaking just standing there, there wasn’t a strong enough word for how he looked when he smiled.
         “I’m Cory Bishop, by the way.”
He extended his hand and I took it. Large, rough, calloused. Working man’s hands.
         “Alexandra Gardener,” I said. “Alex.”
         “Good to meet you, Alex,” he said, and it seemed his smile softened around my name.
I shouldered my bag to buy time for a response. No man—not even Drew, my fiancĂ©—had ever affected me this way, and I grew irritated with myself for letting it happen.
“It’s always busy when you’re in a hurry and traffic lights are always red when you’re running late,” I said. “Murphy’s Law.”
         “Is that your specialty?”
          “No, litigation. How did you know I’m a lawyer?”
He shrugged. “Lucky guess. Mostly lawyers and accountants around here. Or movie producers.”
         “Or actors, but we’ve already established you’re not one of those,” I said lightly.
         Cory’s smile tightened. “Nope. Just in the area for work, and in need of a bank before I get back. Looks like I picked the wrong one.”
He rocked impatiently in his work boots, his hands jammed in the front pocket of his jeans. I thought the conversation was over but he was still half-turned to me.
Nothing wrong with small talk. Passes the time.
A good excuse. Plausible. No objections. But the simple fact remained that I wanted to talk to Cory, to keep looking at his handsome face, and prove I could do so without melting into a puddle.
 “So what line of work are you in?” I asked.
         “I’m in construction. A journeyman.” Cory said. “It’s sort of like an apprentice to a general contractor,” he said, answering my confused look. “You have to pile up a bunch of hours doing that first before you can become a contractor yourself.”
         “Never heard that term before, journeyman,” I said. “Sounds rather exotic. Nomadic.”
         “Yeah, well, it’s neither. Not unless you consider driving to job sites nomadic.”
The line moved ahead by one person. I noticed that Cory and I were now standing side-by-side.
“What exactly does a litigator do?” Cory asked. “Litigate…that’s argue, right?”
“Yes. I’m a trial attorney. I specialize in personal injury, and some medical malpractice.”
He scratched the light stubble on his cheek. “You don’t happen to do family law on the side?”
“No, but there’s an attorney in my firm who does.” I cocked my head, studying Cory’s troubled expression. Do you need his number?” I asked softly.
Cory looked as if he were about to say something, changed his mind, and said instead, “Nah. I’m good, thanks.”
The line inched forward and a silence fell between us. For lack of something better to do, I checked my phone for any news from Abed. Nothing.
“No news is good news, right?” Cory said, watching me return the phone to my bag.
“Not this time,” I said. “A short jury deliberation usually means a guilty verdict.”
“You’re in the middle of a trial right now?”
I nodded. “Just finished closing arguments today.”
“Well, if you get the call and have to bail, I’ll hold your place in line. It probably won’t have moved anyway.”
I laughed. “Probably not.”
He smiled and I smiled back. The bank’s air conditioning was working overdrive against the Los Angeles summer heat, but I felt warm all over. And good. It felt nice to stand beside this handsome man and bask in his smile. I did yoga four times a week to keep the stresses of my job from wrapping me tight and squeezing. Talking to Cory Bishop for all of five minutes had the exact same effect.
We stood in a comfortable silence, and I glanced here and there before venturing to make eye contact again. I caught him watching me, filling his eyes with me, and then he grinned and rubbed the back of his neck, sheepish and charming and beautiful.
He’s beautiful, I thought again. No argument there. Case closed.
I blinked and realized Cory’s dark eyes were holding mine intently, and my heart stuttered in response.
“Hey, listen—” he started to say then stopped. Froze. Whatever he had been about to say was lost forever. His eyes widened at something over my shoulder. I started to turn but he grabbed my shoulders—hard—and shoved me roughly behind him.
I stumbled in my heels. “What the hell are you doing…?”
The glass doors of the bank shook on their hinges and I turned to watch with a shocked, detached fascination as six or so men streamed inside. They wore dark, non-descript clothes, their faces hidden behind different Halloween monster masks. Each had a huge, black, automatic weapon strapped around their shoulders and gripped in gloved hands.
A scream—the first that set off a chorus—echoed in the cavernous heights of the bank as one man drove the butt of his weapon into the security guard’s midsection.
Time slowed, and it felt as if some spell had been cast turning summer to winter. I’d been suddenly submerged in ice-cold gelatin. My heart crashed hard against my chest like a wrecking ball, and I clutched Cory’s arm in a vise grip. I could feel the coarse denim of his jacket against my skin. Tangible. It helped to battle the surreal scene that was unfolding before me.
Cory turned to me. I saw fear spark bright in his dark eyes, but they held a grim determination too.
 “Get down!” he shouted, breaking the strange slow-motion spell. “Get down, now!”
Time shot forward and I heard screams, tromping footsteps, and cries. But I couldn’t move. I felt rooted in place. Cory grabbed me and suddenly I was on my stomach, my face pressed to the cold floor, my hand still clutched around his arm. My heart was now pounding so hard I could hardly distinguish one beat from the next.
In seconds, I felt warped by a terror I hadn’t thought it possible to feel. I sucked in air to calm myself as above me and around me, armed men infiltrated the bank, brandishing their enormous weapons, shouting, swearing, and striking people who didn’t move or obey fast enough.
“Ladies and gentleman,” said one, shouting through his vampire mask in order to be heard while pacing among the masses of cowering people. “In the event you have any lingering confusion, this is a fucking robbery.”


Author Bio:
Emma Scott is a bestselling author of emotional, character-driven romances in which art and love intertwine to heal, and in which love always wins. If you enjoy thoughtful, realistic stories with diverse characters and kind-hearted heroes, you will enjoy her novels. 

Where to Find Emma:
Websitewww.emmascott.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmmaScottwrites
Twitter: @EmmaS_writes
Instagram: @EmmaScottWrites
Amazon: http://bit.ly/EmmaScott


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